CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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Asian face for Asian Youth Day

HONG KONG (SE): Young people from the Hong Kong that had travelled to Indonesia for the Seventh Asian Youth Day in Yogyakarta, which ran from July 30 to August 6, reflected that the experience was a great introduction for them to the wide variety of cultures hosted by the Asian continent and the importance of loving God’s creation.
 
They said they hope they can bring the spirit of Asian Youth Day into their daily lives, especially in the areas of environmental protection and the willingness to communicate with people from cultural backgrounds that differ from their own.
 
Asian Youth Day is organised under the auspices of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Commission of Laity and Family.
 
This year it attracted over 2,000 people from around 20 Asian countries, including some 30 from Hong Kong.
 
The group from Hong Kong arrived in Yogyakarta a little before the official opening to leave time to familiarise themselves a bit with their new environment and observe something of the culture of Indonesia.
 
They visited a farm, China Town and a local parish where the priest blessed their journey.
 
Further visits to parishes and seminaries were also scheduled after the opening ceremony, giving them more exposure to the culture and customs of the country.
 
A number of cultural exchange activities were held in response to the theme of multi-cultural Asia.
 
Some were presented during the opening ceremony and the Hong Kong group joined others from East Asia in a gathering where they shared something of their daily lives and discussed ways of strengthening the direction of youth pastoral work.
 
An exhibition was held on August 3 in which various groups set up booths displaying something on the environmental issues that plague their home countries and the ideas presented in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’).
 
The Hong Kong group spoke about the development plan for the northeast New Territories, the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport and topics related to consumerism.
 
They were also invited to share their views in workshops about mixed marriage, self-orientation and faith, migration, youth poverty, youth involvement in Church activities, the opportunities and crises caused by social media and bearing witness in a multicultural world.
 
Lee Pui-sze, the pastoral officer of the Diocesan Youth Commission, told the Kung Kao Po on August 18 that it had been a great experience in learning more about people in different countries, as well as improving environmental awareness and communication skills.
 
She added that the group from Hong Kong was especially impressed by how young Indonesians love their society and country, how the Muslims and Christians can work together and the friendliness of their host families.
 
She said it was a pity that the plan to visit a Catholic village was cancelled due to some of the group becoming ill.
 
The Asian Youth Day statement was drafted by a team of five to six people from across the continent and read during the closing ceremony on August 6.
 
It urges young people to step out of their comfort zones, get in touch with people of different cultural backgrounds, protect the environment in response to the age old call of the scriptures to cherish God’s gift of creation, as highlighted in the encyclical of Pope Francis, and make good use of new technology and media in witnessing to their faith.
 
A delegate from Hong Kong, Michaela Gallardo, was a member of the statement drafting committee.
 
She told the Sunday Examiner that Asia is a region with a great diversification of cultures, where Catholics only represent a minority and are even oppressed to various degrees in many countries.
 
Gallardo described the importance of the declaration as encouraging young people to live out the gospel in their daily lives and prove that with good personal development in the areas of compassion and unity they can face the challenges presented in the societies where they live.
 
She too was impressed with the enthusiasm of the young Indonesian people in their Church activities, which she called a motivation to her personally live out the message of Asian Youth Day.
 
The Hong Kong group travelled to Bali after the official activities of the week had ended as a further exposure to the environmental issues that plague much of Asia.
 
Chan Wing-yan said she is impressed by how environmental groups are working together with the villagers to prevent the government from turning the mangrove swamps at Benoa Bay into an industrial zone.
 
She said their courage in working to protect the environment has motivated her to contribute something in this area herself.
 
Chan added that she could feel the ever present respect people hold for different religions in the architecture of Church buildings in Indonesia.
 
She observed that Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist or Hindu places of worship can be built next to one another on the same street, and some Catholic churches incorporate architectural elements from Hindu temples, an important facet in expressing a religious harmony.
 
Father Luke Park Young-sup, who was part of the Hong Kong group, said he was happy to see that young people have learned the importance of saving the resources of the earth and leaving a better environment for coming generations.
 
The Korean priest said that although Hong Kong is an international city, people rarely mix across ethnic divides, but the Asian Youth Day has given those who took part an opportunity to accept and understand people from other backgrounds.

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